Joan Lunden points the way Cookbook: 'Joan Lunden's Healthy Cooking' charts her dieting success and may inspire many others.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

No doubt "Joan Lunden's Healthy Cooking" (Little Brown, $24.95) -- a combination cookbook and personal weight-loss story -- will sell millions of copies. It could inspire thousands of her fans to try to cast off the pounds nature has generously bestowed on them.

That's what happens when you are the immensely popular, well-hyped, media-engineered fixture on ABC's "Good Morning America" for more than 20 years. Not since the publication of "In the Kitchen With Rosie" by Oprah Winfrey's cook, Rosie Daley, has a TV-related cookbook taken off with such celerity. After just a week in bookstores, "Healthy Cooking" is in its fourth printing.

Good Housekeeping magazine already has published large segments accompanied by six recipes. Savvy promoters have orchestrated appearances by Lunden in a whirlwind book-signing tour before the fanfare subsides.

That's how high-energy marketing is done nowadays.

So it's fortunate Lunden recently found a half-hour for an interview, sandwiched between a radio talk show appearance and a crowded book-signing.

"Everywhere I go, people call me by my first name," Lunden

says. "They ask 'How are the girls, Joan?' " referring to her three daughters, ages 16, 14 and 8. "They say, 'I am so inspired by you.' "

She looked svelte and radiant in a black pantsuit and exuded the sincerity that makes people feel they can gab with her as if she were the neighbor next door.

Unfortunately, her ebullient presence outshines her book, which turns out to be a collection of cliched personal reminiscences and observations, many of which she already has discussed on "Good Morning America." It also includes about 110 recipes, most of them decent though not original, and all carefully tested by a staff of four hired for that purpose.

"I'm not a nutritionist," she says. "I wanted to be sure there were no mistakes." Each recipe has calorie, fat, percentage of calories from fat and sodium information, but no cholesterol counts. Some are accompanied by color photos or pictures of Lunden posing with famous chefs.

Easy answers

The weight-loss advice she proffers thins down to an unorganized assortment of platitudes most weight-conscious people have heard over and over: Keep a food diary, use herbs and spices to increase the flavor of foods without fat, learn to choose the right foods, and balance your calorie intake with regular exercise.

Though Lunden writes about how she finally had to come to grips with being 50 pounds overweight (180 pounds at 5 foot, 7 1/2 inches), she fails to explain in any detail just how she trimmed down over the past seven years.

She does mention, however, that her road to leanness began with a visit to a health spa and now includes a personal trainer to keep her on a program of cardiovascular exercise and weight lifting.

Also in the book are some short interviews with dietitians, physicians and weight-loss experts and a few recipes from Julia Child, Steven Raichlen, Wolfgang Puck and other well-known cooks. Several other recipes come from family and friends and from Sara Moulton, who prepares recipes for visiting chefs on "Good Morning America."

"I am in a position where I have access to the experts," she says. "Most people wouldn't normally have that."

Some of the same experts and chefs -- as well as dozens not consulted -- have written their own books on health, diet and cuisine that are far more authoritative and complete. But none is named Joan Lunden.

Writing the book entailed some personal agony, she says. "I had to decide if I was going to tell people how much I really weighed, how alone you feel when you're fighting the battle of weight."

But coaxed by family and friends and "thousands of letters and e-mails to 'Good Morning America,' " she and co-author Laura Morton decided to tell her story in print. Morton's expertise is in audience appeal: She produces television infomercials and exercise videos, including Lunden's own "Workout America" video in 1994. The two plan additional projects, including more books.

Her fans will love it

"It's a celebrity book," she acknowledges, saying it should appeal to fans seeking a behind-the-scenes peek at her life. But people looking for nitty-gritty personal details -- for example, about Lunden's much publicized divorce from producer Michael Krauss -- will be as disappointed. as those seeking the secrets of losing weight.

Instead there are anecdotes, such as how she encouraged the ABC catering department to switch from doughnuts and coffeecake to fruit and bagels, what it was like to bungee jump in New Zealand, and how she missed winning a horse show ribbon because she couldn't get her riding boots on over her fattened calves. These tidbits are interspersed with photos of Lunden mountain climbing, parakiting, posing with the Navy Seals or pursuing her equestrian skills. There's also a shot of Lunden in a midair swan dive off a swing bridge in New Zealand, attached by a bungee cord.

Lunden says she would like women to learn that they are important individuals.

"Women give everyone else in their life importance, but often fail to realize they are important too. They think it's self-indulgent to take care of themselves, their own needs."

A down-to-earth communicator with many years of experience, Lunden would like readers to "turn to me for their inspiration, their kick in the tush," she says. "If I can do it, so can they. I want them to ask: 'What has she got that I haven't?' "

Let's start with money. Add a full-time assistant, a personal trainer and, like Oprah, someone to do most of the shopping and cooking. Finally, there's motivation: the realization that despite her current popularity, Lunden is a 45-year-old woman in a profession that puts a premium on youth and beauty.

A twist on the traditional turkey breast, this recipe will knock your socks off, Joan Lunden says. It comes from Laura Morton's cousin, Karen Weiss, a mother of four and a certified public accountant. It has been adapted from the book.

Barbecued turkey breast

Serves 16

MARINADE:

4 cloves garlic, minced (about 4 teaspoons)

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds

2 green onions, minced

1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

juice of 3 lemons

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 pounds boneless turkey breast with skin on

GLAZE:

1/2 cup apricot preserves

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

Whisk together all marinade ingredients except turkey in a large bowl. Add turkey, turn to coat it well. Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator overnight.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. Heat glaze ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until the apricot preserves are melted. Keep warm.

Remove the turkey from marinade and pat it dry. Arrange it, skin side down, on a rack set 6 inches from the glowing coals. Grill, covered, 15 to 20 minutes. Turn turkey over; continue grilling, covered, 10 to 15 minutes longer.

Brush with the warm glaze; then grill and glaze each side another 5 minutes. Check to make sure the turkey is just cooked through (170 degrees on a meat thermometer); if it isn't, continue grilling 5 minutes or so. Let the turkey breast stand 10 minutes before carving.

Per serving: Calories, 153; fat, 4 g; sodium, 626 mg.

In this adaptation of a classic recipe, fat is reduced by omitting the Cheddar cheese, butter and cream and substituting low-fat milk plus a small amount of pungent Parmesan cheese. Leeks add a pleasantly mild onion flavor.

Twice-baked Parmesan potatoes

Serves four

2 baking potatoes (1 to 1 1/2 pounds each)

1 leek, white and pale green part only, split, rinsed well, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups), or 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons 1 percent milk, heated

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

salt, pepper to taste

2 teaspoons chopped parsley

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Prick the potatoes a few times with a knife, and bake 1 hour or until tender. Let them cool until they can be handled.

Meanwhile, cook the leeks in the oil in a nonstick skillet over moderately low heat 5 minutes or until they soften. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop the pulp into a bowl, leaving a 1/4 -inch thick shell. Mash the pulp with a fork or potato masher until it is smooth. Stir in the cooked leeks, the milk, 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan and salt and pepper.

Mound the potato mixture back into the shells. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of the remaining Parmesan over each and bake the stuffed potatoes 10 to 15 minutes or until they are hot. To serve. sprinkle each portion with some of the parsley.

Per serving: Calories, 216; fat, 5 g; sodium, 99 mg.

Pub Date: 5/08/96

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